by Arav Barmecha
Since the industrial age, humans have released over 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide or CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. In the year 2019, we were still pumping out around 37 billion more. That’s 50% more than the year 2000 and almost three times as much as 50 years ago. And it’s not just CO2. We are also pumping outgrowing volumes of other greenhouse gasses such as Methane and Nitrous Oxide. Combining all our greenhouse gases we are emitting the equivalent of 51 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the year 2017. Our emissions are rising rapidly, but emissions need to go down to 0.
In recent years the consequences of rapid climate change have become more visible, with severe wildfires in Australia and the lowest amount of ice ever recorded in the north pole. To slow rapid climate change the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero. In 2018, 76% of global emissions were released through energy production namely, fossil fuels. Currently, 84% of the world’s primary energy consumption comes from fossil fuels. 33% from oil, 27% from coal, and 24% from gas. Only 16% of our energy comes from low emission sources such as hydroelectric, solar, wind, and nuclear energy. This means we rely on coal, oil, and gas to keep our civilization going.
To have a chance of escaping fossil fuels we need to electrify as many sectors as possible. We should switch to using electricity from electric cars to electric furnaces. Electricity might be the key to letting go of our carbon emissions. We would be switching because we can produce electricity from low emission technologies like solar, wind, and nuclear energy. Consider carbon emissions like an addiction to cigarettes, to quit it you need something to replace it with something like chewing gum. In the same way, we need to replace carbon emissions with electricity.
Considering the risks climate change poses for the biosphere and humanity, any technology that has a chance of contributing to a solution should be pursued. That’s just good risk management and strategy. If we start seeing nuclear energy as an opponent and not a teammate, we might have no hope to come out of climate change. If we take nuclear energy offline right now then that missing energy capacity will be replaced by fossil fuels. I think that nuclear energy is the missing piece to combat climate change.